Adding + Optimizing Google Maps Listings
This is a must read for any business that wants to start getting local prospect traffic to their website fast. We added Google Maps optimization to our internet marketing arsenal years ago, but today it's importance has become blatantly obvious. Your Business with Google Maps, AKA Google My Business, has become an extremely important element in your optimization strategy and should not be overlooked. In this article I am going to break down how to set it up and maintenance, as well as give you insight on getting the best ranking for your local area.
Some of these tips are bias and theoretical and others factual ranking factors. If you have not implemented this for your business yet, I have no doubt in my mind that you will thank me later after you have gone through the process.
Why you need a Google Maps Location Listing?
I don't want to sound like a broken record, but mobile search made up 58% of search in 2018 and 48% of time spent online last year was on mobile devices. If you have payed attention to the google search page anatomy over the past 2 years the top 3-4 positions after the initial paid ads are Google Maps based listings providing local results based on the location of the device. This is a huge deal and should not be overlooked. So for example, if prospects are in the respective proximity to Blue Light Labs and search for "web designers" or "web developers near me" based on the health and activity of my Google My Business Listing I find I typically show up in the top 3 when being within a 30 mile radius.This is a huge deal and should not be overlooked. So for example, if prospects are in the respective proximity to Blue Light Labs and search for "web designers" or "web developers near me" based on the health and activity of my Google My Business Listing I find I typically show up in the top 3 when being within a 30 mile radius.
In the past, I have always preached the "Google Loves Google" perspective where I think it is important to listen to the heartbeat of this search giant and follow along and get on board with its improvements as they become apparent. Google Maps has been around since 2005 but only in the last 3 years has it become a primary piece of real estate on the search result pages. As it affects the SEO of your site, one could say it most likely is a strong signal. With another perspective, it might be another way that they validate your business and its coverage area. All in all it will not hurt you to spend 45 minutes to an hour adding at your locations. Citations, references and inbound links are one of the main fuels that push your site up the results and Google My Business listings are one of the obvious important ones.
Anatomy of a Google My Business Listing
If you were to open up a new tab in your browser right now and do a quick search for a standard phrase without a location identifier, then most likely you will see 3-4 sponsored ad listings starting from the top. Jut under the initial paid add listings, you should see the map listing module composed of a map, locator markers and then the top 3-4 local listings under that complete with it's own footer to view more before the organic results even start. That is some crazy nice real estate if you ask me! I don't know when this format is going to change or how it is going to morph over time, but one could assume that local search is here to stay, especially now that mobile is the primary driver of internet traffic.
These listings depending on information added have a title link, directions link, and website link available on both mobile and desktop browsers based search. If the links are selected it goes directly to that listings overview complete with posts, images contact information and reviews. This is the area we want to shine when setting up your business in the listing editor so it's a good idea to take a peak at what your local competitors are doing already.
Adding your Google Business Location
Slide on over to https://www.google.com/business/ and login or sign up with the google account you want to use as your administrative account for your listings.
Select Add Location and fill out business title first. If possible without sounding spammy I would try to add a primary key phrase to your location for example "Blue Light Labs Web Design" or lets say for a law for a law firm "Brown & Brown Family Lawyers". It is believed that adding a target phrase in your title can help but I am not 100% on that.
(This Is Important) Google will then ask you if you would like your business to be able to be visited like a store or office. You want to choose YES in this scenario, why?, Even if you work from home and want to get prospects via appointment only your location will not have much of a fighting chance if you choose NO. Here at Blue Light Labs we primarily work from home but do have prospects that visit from time to time. I have always pushed (By Appointment Only) but in many respects depending on your business type, you might get an occasional prospect knocking on your door. It honestly has never been a problem, but in other circumstances if you do have a location like an office, restaurant, gym etc. you will be welcoming the foot traffic.
Depending on your situation you need to verify your location with a phone call or postcard sent to your address. I don't think they offer the phone call verification anymore, but I might be wrong. The postcard with the verification code normally takes under a week to get to your location so keep an eye out for it so it does not get mistaken for junk mail. Once you have the verification code proceed to the list manager and select the verify listing option to the right of your pending listing. At that point you can start adding additional content to your listing so it can start to stand out.
Listing Manager and Settings
This interface has improved tremendously over the past 2 years. Google even built a little bit of social activity into it. Now you can add posts, promotions, events and promotions and products to your listing. Before we get ahead of our self's let's go to the company info tab and make sure all the information is filled out correctly.
> Category Tab
Try to find the best category for your primary search phrase. Google will try to help you with the best option and give you a few recommended ones as you are typing phrases in. You can add more than one, however I would not get out of hand with it. I do know you can show up for more than 1 service though. For example Blue Light Labs offer Web Design as well as Aerial Drone Photography. I know we show up locally for both, but if I where you I would keep the list short and sweet. Ours are set up like:
Web hosting company
I have tested these categories locally and we have started to show up under our sub categories so these are relevant and not just for show. It appears like when you edit any of this content that it takes Google around 24 hours to approve the changes. So far I have not had an issue with approval.
> Info Tab
Most of this is straight forward, go ahead and fill out title, description, hours of operation and photos. Coverage areas at this point in time are informational only, they don't expand your local search radius unfortunately. Listing photos and videos are categorized to where you can add additional images. I would however at a minimum, upload your company logo + branding in order to get your listing to stand out a bit more from the standard ones. I suggest you take your time with it so you know your way around the listing editor, you can always go back and tweak it later if you don't have time.
You should most definitely add your website and a link to an (Appointment URL) / Jump page for prospects that want to inquire further.
> Website tab
It is a simple 1 page website generator that will auto fill the service and location information into a stand alone jump page. At first I did not know if it was related to the location listing requirements or not, but apparently it's Just Google's way of giving you an alternative way of having a website. One I filled out the service info and went to that tab it generated a URL like the following https://bluelightlabs.business.site/. I don't think adding the services and description have any effect on the listing search results so you can leave that alone unless you don't have a website to work with yet.
Getting Great Reviews!
This is where you have to put in a little work, however, I find it to be worthwhile. We send almost all of our completed and happy clients to our local page to review us. Good reviews are worth their weight in gold and believe me, especially when prospects are scouting out the services they are paying attention to them. Reviews are absolutely one of Googles ranking factors when it comes to ranking well in the local results. You want to get at least 3 good reviews under your belt for your listing to start to shine. Don't get discouraged though, Just put in the extra time, be patient and take advantage of every time you have a successful sale or service transaction ask your customer politely to write you a good review, then link to your local page.
Here is a good article on how to create a direct link to your local review page that you can add to your emails and other digital correspondence.
Your client, of course has to have a Google Account to login and write reviews but this has hardly been a problem. Google is pretty good at spotting fake unnatural reviews so I don't recommend forging them. Reviews are also great for reference, when potential prospects ask for them you will have somewhere to send them. I never really liked Yelp! much for reviews because most "Yelpers" are out for blood trying to have an opinion more than being helpful. Just my opinion..
Adding posts and company updates
This feature has become more prominent over the last 12 months. Your local page now has it's own internal blog module built into it. You can post promotions, company news and other information related to it. I started posting to it about 4 months ago when I got an email from Google entitled "You have not posted to your local business page in a while?". (TIP) I went back to my original mantra "Google Loves Google", and started posting updates and promotions to my locations. I am not saying this for a fact, however I did notice that our business listing, started moving up the list when I took the time every month or so to add additional content to the post area.
Get the mobile app!
You can get the mobile app version of Google My business for iOS and Android as well. It's great for adding posts, making modifications and checking reviews and statistics.
I hope this article was useful. At Blue Light Labs we have a new SEO Rabbit service devoted to optimizing Joomla! and WordPress websites feel free to let us know if you would like help optimizing your business on the web.
The Deep End has a great up to date for 2019 video on this process, you can check that out here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2P-l57clHg